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Participant drop-out occurs in all longitudinal studies, and if
systematic, may lead to selection biases and erroneous conclusions being
drawn from a study.
We investigated whether drop out in the Avon Longitudinal Study of
Parents And Children (ALSPAC) was systematic or random, and if
systematic, whether it had an impact on the prediction of disruptive
Teacher reports of disruptive behaviour among currently participating,
previously participating and never participating children aged 8 years in
the ALSPAC longitudinal study were collected. Data on family factors were
obtained in pregnancy. Simulations were conducted to explain the impact
of selective drop-out on the strength of prediction.
Drop out from the ALSPAC cohort was systematic and children who dropped
out were more likely to suffer from disruptive behaviour disorder.
Systematic participant drop-out according to the family variables,
however, did not alter the association between family factors obtained in
pregnancy and disruptive behaviour disorder at 8 years of age.
Cohort studies are prone to selective drop-out and are likely to
underestimate the prevalence of psychiatric disorder. This empirical
study and the simulations confirm that the validity of regression models
is only marginally affected despite range restrictions after selective
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